Interview with the Treasure Magazine.

Treasure

Your Grace, how did you discover your call to the priesthood?

Archbishop

Like all God’s elections it is always gratuitous. God calls those He wills and He does that in variety of ways. It is always a mystery. As the last child of my family, I was raised in a pious and religious atmosphere where I experienced a great dose of love from which I had a glimpse of what a father’s love could be. Through that exposure to the love of God through my mother, family and teachers, I developed a great interest in sharing this love of God. When the civil war interrupted our studies at Christ the King College, C.K.C, Onitsha, I met Fr Emmanuel Otteh (now Bishop Emeritus of Issele-Uku) who was training the seminarians. Having watched me, he took interest in me and encouraged me to join the formation to the priesthood at that point and not after my studies at CKC as I was planning.

2.     Recently, you celebrated 30 years in the priesthood; lived the word of God and also employed it in shepherding the flock of Christ. What has been your greatest challenge/experience all these years and what are the implications?

Archbishop:

My greatest challenge is the progressive realization that conversion is not really what you achieve. It is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. When I entered the priesthood I had the disposition that with my ministry of word and sacrament and indeed that of shepherding the people of God that I would very soon convert the souls placed under my care. But as days go by, I realized that we are not really called to be successful but to be faithful, so that when one faithfully preaches the word, devotedly administers the sacraments and piously discharges the pastoral activities they constitute only the human action that needs the impact of the Holy Spirit. It could be frustrating to see that the people you are ministering to are not converted overnight. One can be impatient. But the pastoral work is a school of the spirit where patience and indeed virtues and holiness are nurtured even in the pastor. There is then no need to say that many impacts are not being made. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is at work. It gladdens my heart the level of transformation going on in different areas of my apostolate. However, it is ultimately the grace of God at work, and we can only say: To God alone be all the glory.

3 Treasure

Today, under your regime the Cathedral church of the Most Holy Trinity Onitsha has assumed the status of a Basilica, how did this come to reality and what are the implications?

Archbishop

To the glory of God, it pleased the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI to raise Holy Trinity Cathedral to the status of a basilica. It did not come without the hard work of those who have presided over that cathedral through the years. To me it is a tribute to the glorious heritage starting from Servant of God, Ignatius Joseph Shanahan, the first bishop and the one who started the construction of the Cathedral, through Archbishop Charles Heerey of blessed memory, Francis Cardinal Arinze, Archbishop Stephen Ezeanya of blessed memory, to Archbishop Albert Obiefuna of blessed memory. All my predecessors contributed a great deal to the tradition of piety, doctrinal and liturgical orthodoxy, faith inspired obedience and deference to the Holy Father, lively faith in the Eucharist expressed in continual adoration and fervent participation in the daily celebration of the Eucharist and liturgy of hours. When I took over, drawing from the many experiences I gathered from my travels, I thought it would help build the faith of our people if the cathedral is raised to the status of a basilica-that is making the church a special church of the Pope, thus making it a pilgrimage centre with lots of spiritual benefits which includes indulgence. Once I resolved to pursue that, I then built on what my predecessors did through the years. Concerted efforts were made to update the aesthetics, harmonize the liturgical and doctrinal life and a few other things were done so as to scale through the requirements. After a thorough study Rome found our cathedral worthy to be made a basilica. Consequently, Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity is now a pilgrimage centre with indulgences attached like other pilgrimage centres all over the world.

Treasure

Blessed John Paul II, whom you have as your model, sees education as helping individuals “to be more human” (Evangelium Vitae). What is your own view as regards the present situation of education in Nigeria?

Archbishop

I quite agree that man is not a finished product thrown down from heaven. God created him in such a manner that progressively he becomes. He is a being that becomes. Indeed he is in constant becoming; man progressively becomes human with right education. I mean right education and not any type of education. One can be properly or badly formed depending on the type of education he receives. Therefore education is not innocuous, it can produce good result or bad result since it is performative. Unfortunately, the situation in Nigeria since last forty years leaves much to be desired. The rot in the educational system corroborates the breakdown of family life wrecking untold havoc to our nation. It is clear that educational system in Nigeria is crying for the intervention of the men and women of goodwill, government and voluntary agencies for rescue. It is in this light that one praises the efforts of some state Governors at handing over schools back to the missions and their former owners. In this respect many thanks goes to Anambra state Government for showing the light in this direction. It is not possible to train a people created by God without God. God, and for that matter values and morals should be mainstreamed in the formation of young people, otherwise we might be training sophisticated robbers or educated social misfits or intellectual embezzlers.

Treasure

Your passion to ennoble the young generation has led you to establish an enviable Youth Village Hostels at Amansea Awka, close to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, for an integral formation of the youth. What inspired you?

Archbishop

You have already answered the question. It is a passion to ennoble the youth. It is really a desire to give the youth the best in academic, moral, spiritual and human formation so as to come out the best human beings they were created to be. I was shock-stricken when I discovered the miserable situation in which our future leaders are being trained; it was shock about the pitiable situation within which the future Nnamdi Azikiwe, Francis Cardinal Arinze, Blessed Father Tansi, and Chike Obi will emerge that inspired me to light a candle. Since it is always better to light a candle than to shout that darkness is too much, being guided by light of the changing situation of things in our land I decided to make positive use of the prevailing circumstances to impact positively on the life of the society through impacting on the youth formation so as not to suffocate in the heat of ugly trends.

Treasure

In your thoughts on “You and the Common Good” our people look forward for the dignity of human person, the obligation to respect personal property and many more. Do you think we can achieve this with the incessant bomb blasts and the actions of the “Boko Harams” in some parts of our country including the FCT?

Archbishop

Violence of any kind is against the dignity of human person. Nothing is achieved by violence. So the violence and destruction of lives and properties we are experiencing in our country presently cannot be justified in any way at all. It is incumbent on the men and women of goodwill to condemn that, life is inviolable and sacred and no one has right to take his life let alone that of others. People must be respected for who they are and also in what they have. Destruction of lives and property offends both God and man and should be condemned by all irrespective of what the pretentions are.

Treasure

Gratitude is your watchword, you believe in it, live it and desire that all should practice it. Please advise people on this.

Archbishop

In everything give thanks for that is the will of God for us. Thanksgiving or gratitude is an acknowledgement that we are not self sufficient but rather that God is the provident and the most beneficent Father who cares for his children through varied means. Gratitude is a response to grace and at the same time the source of grace. Gratefulness and thankfulness win you more graces to live as a child of God. Whoever that cannot be grateful is mean and lacks the maturity of a healthy person. As St Paul asked rather rhetorically, what do you have that was not given to you? If all is grant why then do you behave as if you did not receive them? Life is a gift that demands gratitude, and fulfilled life is that that is lived in gratitude.

Treasure

What advice do you have for the staff and the students of Daughters of Divine Love Juniorate?

Archbishop

Life is an opportunity given by God to develop and be the best one is created to be. Therefore, both the staff and students should appreciate the fact that actions and inactions of today coalesce to form the persons who participate in the project of the world tomorrow. Now is the time to get equipped for the task ahead. If the world will be shaped for the glory of God, the time is now and the players are you. God bless you all.

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